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Meet Elijah By Design, the Brooklyn-Based Creative Finding Purpose Through Disruption

By Brendan Varan on

Elijah Craig II, aka @elijahbydesign, curates an exclusive playlist for Audiomack and talks to us about teamwork, purpose, legacy, and more. Interview by Yelda Ali (@y3lda). All photos by Isaac Campbell (@moresoupplease).

Elijah Craig loves to break things: stereotypes, patterns, anything that keeps him in a box. A Bay Area native that was raised in Nebraska and now resides in Brooklyn, he’s the kind of person that makes you question whether he’s the photographer or the model at the shoot, the producer or the rapper in the studio, the coach or the athlete on the court.

His disruptive nature has turned him toward various forms of art over the years. Though best known for his photography, music has always been the nucleus of his art. As a child amongst jazz bands, he played trumpet and drums. When his aspirations as an instrumentalist were cut short after years of getting picked on, Elijah picked up rapping over J Dilla instrumentals and began turning heads.

Being of Black, Native American, and European descent, Elijah learned how to bridge gaps between people from a young age. He does more than meet people — he strives to know them, and in doing so has been able to deeply appreciate the power of teamwork. After spending time behind the scenes with notable artists—friends like Kehlani, DUCKWRTH, Ro James, Johaz, and more—Elijah pivoted to photography after realizing he could put a thousand words into one image. From there, Elijah started spitting bars through imagery and purposefully evolving into a different kind of storyteller in the music industry.

When speaking on his art, whether photos or music, he makes clear that creating is about using your voice. There are questions he refers to constantly to keep his intentions pure: What is the narrative I’m conveying? Am I creating off purpose or just showing off my talents? How is this going to change things? How will this affect others?

“As a kid, I felt so blessed because I had two parents. I wasn’t in the streets. I had a full household. A teammate once told me, ‘You got it good. You don’t gotta visit your dad in jail.’”
“Comparison is the devil. It comes from the feeling of doubt and inadequacy. Analyze your situation, your gifts, and what you have to bring to the table. People need to have confidence in their beliefs. You can magnetize things based on what you believe. Be mindful of the direction you’re going in.”
“The internet has made everything exponentially fast, and people are working towards ‘blowing up’ everyday. I had never seen that energy before. Like we’re on the clock and ‘You fit this mold. Run it. We’ll get you the right stylist, the right chain, the right Auto-Tune.’ But nah, I’ve always been on my own pace, not the pace of the world.”
“Remember people’s names. If you’re going to meet someone, really get to know them. Knowing people is better than meeting people.”
“My dad and my uncle came from an impoverished family from Mississippi where they used to eat possums and rabbits for dinner. That was their life and they built a life where they played professional athletics, provided for their families and extended families, built that off of nothing. I think I’ve always had that in my brain and known that anything is possible. If my dad is the first person to go to college in his entire family ever, who’s to say that I can’t leave an imprint that can be felt past my life?”
“I hope whatever I do while I’m alive can be felt once I’m gone. And that people can remember how I made them feel.”
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